On July 7th in history:

Bob McConnell
July 7, 2023

1456 – A retrial verdict acquits Joan of Arc of heresy 25 years after her execution.  Doubt if she had the opportunity she would find comfort in the old saying “better late than never”.

1520 – Spanish conquistadores defeat a larger Aztec army at the Battle of Otumba.

1667 – An English fleet completes the destruction of a French merchant fleet off Fort St. Pierre, Martinique during the Second Anglo-Dutch War.

1777 – American forces retreating from Fort Ticonderoga are defeated in the Battle of Hubbardton.

1798 – As a result of the XYZ Affair, Congress rescinds the Treaty of Alliance with France sparking the “Quasi-War”.  The XYZ Affair was a political and diplomatic episode in 1797 and 1798, early in the presidency of John Adams, involving a confrontation between the United States and Republican France. The name derives from the substitution of the letters X, Y, and Z for the names of French diplomats Jean-Conrad Hottinguer (X), Pierre Bellamy (Y), and Lucien Hauteval (Z) in documents released by the Adams administration.  An American diplomatic commission was sent to France in July 1797 to negotiate a solution to problems that were threatening to break out into war. The diplomats, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, John Marshall, and Elbridge Gerry, were approached through informal channels by agents of the French foreign minister, Talleyrand, who demanded bribes and a loan before formal negotiations could begin. Although it was widely known that diplomats from other nations had paid bribes to deal with Talleyrand at the time, the Americans were offended by the demands, and eventually left France without ever engaging in formal negotiations. Gerry, seeking to avoid all-out war, remained for several months after the other two commissioners left. His exchanges with Talleyrand laid groundwork for the eventual end to diplomatic and military hostilities.  The failure of the commission caused a political firestorm in the United States when the commission's dispatches were published. It led to the undeclared Quasi-War (1798–1800). Federalists, who controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, took advantage of the national anger to build up the nation's military. They also attacked the Democratic-Republicans for their pro-French stance, and Gerry (a nonpartisan at the time) for what they saw as his role in the commission's failure.

1807 – The first Treaty of Tilsit between France and Russia is singed, ending hostilities between the two countries in the War of the Fourth Coalition.

1834 – In New York City, four nights of rioting against abolitionists began.  The rioting lasted for nearly a week until it was put down by military force. "At times the rioters controlled whole sections of the city while they attacked the homes, businesses, and churches of abolitionist leaders and ransacked black neighborhoods."The origins lay in the combination of nativism among Protestants who had controlled the booming city since the American revolution, and tensions between the growing underclass of Irish immigrants and their kin. In 1827, the UK repealed aspects of the Passenger Vessels Act, legislation controlling and restricting emigration from Ireland, and 20,000 Irish emigrated; by 1835 over 30,000 Irish arrived in New York annually.  In May and June 1834, the silk merchants and ardent abolitionists Arthur Tappan and his brother Lewis stepped up their agitation for the abolition of slavery by underwriting the formation in New York of a female anti-slavery society. Arthur Tappan drew particular attention by sitting in his pew (at Samuel Cox’s Laight Street Church) with Samuel Cornish, a mixed-race clergyman of his acquaintance, and an incendiary report by William Leete Stone Sr. claimed that Cox's sermon asserted that :Jesus Christ Was A Colored Man. By June, lurid rumors were being circulated by the champion of the American Colonization Society's James Watson Webb, through his newspaper “Courier and Enquirer”: abolitionists had told their daughters to marry blacks, black dandies in search of white wives were promenading Broadway on horseback, and Arthur Tappan had divorced his wife and married a black woman.   Reports appearing in London in “The Times”, taken from American newspapers, cite as the triggering cause a disturbance following a misunderstanding at the Chatham Street Chapel, a former theater converted with money from Arthur Tappan for the ministry of Charles Grandison Finney. Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace note that on July 4, an integrated group that had convened at the chapel to celebrate New York's emancipation (in 1827) of its remaining slaves was dispersed by angry spectators. The celebration was rescheduled for July 7. According to “The Times”, the secretary of the New York Sacred Music Society, which leased the chapel on Monday and Thursday evenings, gave a black congregation leave to use it on July 7 to hold a church service. This service was in progress when members of the society who were unaware of the arrangement arrived and demanded to use the facility. Although one member of the congregation called for the chapel to be vacated, most refused. A fracas ensued "which resulted in the usual number of broken heads and benches". Burrows and Wallace note that constables arrived and arrested six blacks. Webb's paper described the event as a Negro riot resulting from "Arthur Tappan's mad impertinence", and the “Commercial Advertiser “reported that gangs of blacks were preparing to set the city ablaze.  There is more but I think you get the idea.  Eventually the military brought the distasteful riot to an end.

1846 – U.S. troops occupy Monterey and Yerba Buena, thus beginning the U.S. conquest of California.

1863 – The United States begins its first military draft – exemptions cost $300.

1865 – Four conspirators in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln are hanged.  After the Lincoln assassination, the government arrested several hundred people. Most were soon released due to a lack of evidence. However, the government did charge eight people with conspiracy. On May 1, 1865, President Andrew Johnson ordered the formation of a military commission to try the accused persons.  The actual trial began on May 10th and lasted for about seven weeks. The defendants were allowed to have lawyers and witnesses, but they were not allowed to testify themselves.  On June 29, 1865, the Military Commission met in a secret session to begin its review of the evidence in the seven-week long trial. A guilty verdict could come with a majority vote of the nine-member commission; death sentences required the votes of six members. The next day, it reached its verdicts. The Commission found seven of the prisoners guilty of at least one of the conspiracy charges.  Four of the prisoners: Mary Surratt, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, and David Herold were sentenced “to be hanged by the neck until he [or she] be dead”. Samuel Arnold, Dr. Samuel Mudd, and Michael O’Laughlen were sentenced to “hard labor for life, at such place at the President shall direct”, Edman Spangler received a six-year sentence. The next day General Hartrandft informed the prisoners of their sentences. He told the four condemned prisoners that they would hang the next day. David Herold — An impressionable and dull-witted pharmacy clerk, Herold accompanied Booth to the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd, who set Booth’s injured leg. The two men then continued their escape through Maryland and into Virginia, and Herold remained with Booth until the authorities cornered them in a barn. Herold surrendered but Booth was shot and died a few hours later.  Lewis Powell — Powell was a former Confederate prisoner of war. Tall and strong, he was recruited to provide the muscle for the kidnapping plot. When that plan failed, Booth assigned Powell to kill Secretary of State William Seward. He entered the Seward home and severely injured Seward, Seward’s son, and a bodyguard. Mary Surratt — Surratt owned a boarding house in Washington where the conspirators met. Sentenced to death, she was hanged, becoming the first woman executed by the United States federal government.  George Azterodt — German-born Azterodt was a carriage painter and boatman who had secretly ferried Confederate spies across Southern Maryland waterways during the war. Recruited by Booth into the conspiracy, he was assigned to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson, but lost his nerve.  More than 1,000 people—including government officials, members of the U.S. armed forces, friends and family of the accused, official witnesses, and reporters—had come with their exclusive tickets to see this execution. After the last rites and shortly after 1:30 PM, the trap door was opened and all four fell. It was reported that Atzerodt yelled at this very last moment: “May we meet in another world”. Within minutes, they were all dead.  The bodies continued to hang and swing for another 25 minutes before they were cut down.

1898 – President McKinley signs the Newlands Resolution annexing Hawaii as a territory of the United States/

1928 – Sliced bread is sold for the first time by the Chillicothe Baking Company of Chillicothe, Missouri.

1930 – Industrialist Henry J. Kaiser begins construction of Boulder Dam – now known as Hoover Dam.

River view of the future dam site, c. 1904

1944 – World War II – Largest Banzai charge of the Pacific War at the Battle of Saipan.  This term came from the Japanese battle cry tennōheika banzai translation - "long live the His Majesty the Emperor"), and was shortened to banzai, specifically referring to the tactic used by the Imperial Japanese Army during the war. This tactic was used when the Japanese commanders of infantry battalions foresaw that a battle was about to be lost, as a last ditch effort in thwarting Allied Forces.  During the war period, the Japanese militarist government disseminated propaganda that romanticized suicide attacks, using one of the virtues of Bushido as the basis for the campaign. The Japanese government presented war as purifying, with death defined as a duty.  In this, the largest banzai charge of the war on Saipan. General Yoshitsugu Saito gathered almost 4,300 Japanese soldiers, walking wounded and some civilians, many unarmed, and ordered the charge. They slammed directly into the U.S. Army's 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 105th Infantry Regiment, which lost almost 2,000 men in the 15-hour pitched battle. The attack was ultimately repulsed, and almost all the Japanese soldiers taking part in the charge were killed.

1946 – (a) Mother Francesca S. Cabrini becomes the first American to be canonized.  Also called Mother Cabrini, she was an Italian-American Catholic religious sister. She founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a religious institute that was a major support to her fellow Italian immigrants to the United States. (b) Howard Hughes nearly dies when his XF-11 reconnaissance aircraft prototype crashes in a Beverly Hills neighborhood.

Mother Cabrini – Hughes crash site.

1958 – President Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Act.

1981 – President Reagan announces that he will nominate Sandra Day O’Connor to become the first female member of the Supreme Court.  This certainly is a day I will remember.  A little background for my story of this day.  First from Arizona. I had met O’Connor several times. I had appeared before her to argue a motion in the Maricopa Superior Court before she joined the Court of Appeals and, unknown to all but a very few, I had agreed to serve as her campaign manager for what was to be her campaign for Governor of Arizona, running against then-Governor Bruce Babbitt.  But the Saturday before the Monday she was to announce her candidacy she and husband John had decided against the run.  The second bit of background is from Washington. (a) My first day at the Department of Justice in February (1981) my wonderful career deputy Mike Dolan briefed me on many things about Justice, the office and more.  One of the things he said was that if I wanted the office (Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs) involved in more than background work on any nominations to the Supreme Court I might discuss it with the Attorney General.  Mike said that once the White House made nominations to all other positions in the Federal Judiciary, the briefings, courtesy calls, getting the nominees through the process was left to us.  But traditionally once a nomination for the Supreme Court was made we were asked for research but never had any contact with the nominee. Not long after that I shared this with the Attorney General, William French Smith.  He listened, but as was he way, really didn’t respond. (b) Obviously, Candidate Reagan had said as President if given the opportunity he would nominate a woman to the Supreme Court.  Early on at Justice it was clear the Attorney General had a list of potential nominees for the Court and to be prepared he had a number of people looking into the backgrounds of those potential nominees including their writings, etc. Ken Starr, Counsellor to the Attorney General, was basically supervising that project and I had become aware O’Connor’s name was on that list of people being looked at.  Then there was a day when the Attorney General told me he was sending one of his Special Assistants, Hank Habicht, to see me and everything we were to talk about was to be kept secret.  Later that morning Hank came in and told me he was being sent to Arizona to do further background checking on O’Connor and wanted to know if I could suggest any people who knew her well and, if talked to, would keep those conversations private. I suggested he see Judge Bob Broomfield, chief judge of the Maricopa County Superior Court, Marshal Humphry, a friend and President of the Arizona Senate when Sandra was a senator, Frank Ryley, a powerful and wise senior partner in the Phoenix firm of Ryley, Carlock and Applewhite, and John Kyl, prominent Phoenix attorney and Counsel of the Arizona Republican Party - later obviously a Congressman and Senator from Arizona.  Hank asked me to call each of them, tell them he was coming to Phoenix and asking for them to talk with him and to keep everything, the meeting and what was said entirely confidential.  I did and Hank went to Phoenix.  All I was told later was that there likely were no better people to talk to – knowledgeable, candid, and insightful - - and certainly they all keep the secret.  OK, enough background - jumping forward to the morning on July 7,1981.  Not long after our daily morning meeting with the Attorney General (about 10 of us every morning at 8:30), Bill called me from the White House and suggested I turn on my television.  I did and President Reagan was announcing his choice of Judge O’Connor.  Then later, when I got to our daily lunch with the Attorney General at 12:30 Bill said when lunch was over he and I were to go to the White House.  At the White House we met in the office of Max Friedersdorf, the Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs.  Attending were Jim Baker, COS, Max, Powell Moore, the President’s head of Senate Liaison, the Attorney General and me (probably one or two others but I can “see” these five and where they were sitting in the room).  Baker started the meeting saying the nomination would be under the overall supervision of Max but that I would, coordinating with Powell Moore, essentially have operational responsibilities out of Justice.  (One of my first lessons in understanding Bill Smith was always listening.  This arrangement would not have happened without his direct involvement.) Once that was set out for everyone Baker said that he wanted the confirmation process completed before the beginning of the August Recess (just a few weeks away). He wanted the confirmation over with so that when Congress returned in September all focus could be on appropriations and budget matters. Powell and I had talked a lot by this time in the Administration and as an experienced hand he had taught me a lot – we had discussed many confirmation tales and Powell was a wealth of knowledge.  I immediately thought of something Powell and I had discussed maybe a month earlier and I expected him to say something. When he did not but looked at me, I expressed concern to Baker that there wasn’t much time before the August recess - there would need to be courtesy calls, review of all subjects likely to come up in the hearings, briefings, practice hearings (moot court-type grilling of the nominee) – I was not sure all that could be done in that time frame. Baker came back at me strong in his push that the confirmation be done with before the August recess.  Hesitantly I asked if I could make a final argument about the timing.  Baker told me to go ahead as the Attorney General looked at me seemingly saying “you are arguing with the Chief of Staff!”  I said, there are all kinds of things that can slow down a confirmation, I am sure we could get the hearings started before August but I am not sure we can get to a vote.  Among other things one senator could put a “hold” on the process, easily things could get pushed over until after the recess. And my concern is what can happen during an August recess when, among other things the press and opponents have time on their hands.  But for his nomination left pending over an August recess Abe Fortas would have been Chief Justice. Baker looked at me for a long moment and said, “Bob, I want O’Connor’s hearing to start the day Congress returns in September!”  The story obviously continues from there but this is what I recall of that day. Maybe more later sometime but with Ken Starr leading the research team with Johnathan Rose Judge O’Connor was provided extraordinary briefing materials, the briefings and moot courts were held in the Department of Justice, Powell and I handled all the in-person meetings ahead of her September hearing and it seemed like I was with her night and day – oh and Mike Dolan played one of the senators on the Committee on the Judiciary in our practice hearings.

1985 – Boris Becker becomes the youngest male player ever to win Wimbledon at age 17.

2016 – Ex-US Army soldier Micah Xavier Johnson shoots fourteen police officers during an anti-police protest in downtown Dallas, killing five of them.  He is subsequently killed by a robot-delivered bomb.

2022 – Boris Johnson announces his resignation as leader of the Conservative Party following days of pressure from the Members of Parliament.